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A successful surgery to immunize a 46-year-old man against AIDS has sparked hope that the same innovative method can be used to treat the 34 million individuals that are currently HIV positive.
Along with a treatment to combat leukemia, Timothy Brown “received a blood stem cell transplant from a person resistant to the virus” in 2007. Ever since the transplant, Brown has not shown any signs of the virus and is reportedly “the first person in history to be cured of HIV.”
Dubbed “The Berlin Patient”, Brown received an umbilical cord transplant that was from “a donor with a genetic mutation” that immunized him against HIV.
Specifically, a gene named CCR5 has been of particular interest to researchers studying immunization mechanisms against the virus. Reportedly, they have found that one copy of the gene confers some resistance to HIV, while two copies of CCR5 gives greater resistance against the virus. Unfortunately, stem cell transplants lack practicality in that locating a matching bone marrow donor that is also HIV-resistant is extremely difficult.
Medical director of StemCyte Dr. Lawrence Petz addressed the breakthrough surgery stating, “At the present time, I feel there’s no other way to cure a reasonable number of patients other than using cord blood. ” He further added, “It can be done. It’s just a matter of time.”